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Preparing for a Safe New School Year

Preparing for a Safe New School Year

Schools encouraged to follow CDC guidance. Eligible students ages 12 and older encouraged to get COVID-19 vaccination

With the first day of the 2021-22 school year approximately one month away, the departments of Health (DOH) and Education (PDE) are offering recommendations to families and schools as they safely prepare for in-person teaching and learning.  


DOH and PDE encourage all eligible students ages 12 and older, and other eligible members of their household, to get their COVID-19 vaccinations before the new school year.  

“There are safe and effective vaccines available to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As students look forward to returning to classes, getting a vaccine should be considered an essential back-to-school item on this year’s list,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is our best protection from this virus.” 

All Pennsylvanians aged 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Use Vaccine Finder to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near you.  

School Guidance
DOH and PDE continue to advise K-12 school entities to follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, to the greatest extent possible, when creating and implementing mitigation policies and practices. A summary of the CDC’s recently updated guidance is available on PDE’s website.   

The American Rescue Plan Act and U.S. Department of Education require school entities to develop Health and Safety plans that implement prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the CDC for the reopening and operation of school facilities. PDE plans to post school Health and Safety Plans on its website later this summer.

Face Coverings/Masks

According to the CDC “Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

Schools may adopt stricter masking policies. Each school entity must include a locally determined face covering policy in its Health and Safety Plan.

“Our schools have gone to great lengths to help create safe learning environments and protect their communities throughout the pandemic,” said Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “Acting Secretary Beam and I advise schools to continue to protect their communities by following current CDC guidance, to the greatest extent possible, as they plan and prepare for the new school year. These measures will help ensure students, educators, and school staff experience a safe return to in-person teaching and learning this fall.”